OVERTON – On June 25, East Texas nursery growers, greenhouse managers, Master Gardeners and homeowners will have the chance to see field trials of hundreds of ornamental plant varieties, including more than 100 varieties of New Guinea impatiens.

In mid-May, Judy Hill, Smith County Master Gardeners, plants sets of New Guinea impatiens. The gardening club donated thousands of hours in 2003-2004, without which the East Texas bedding plant trials would not be possible, said Dr. Brent Pemberton, Texas Agricultural Experiment Station horticulturist. (Robert Burns photo)

Of particular interest to local gardeners will be disease-resistant rose trials of the new Pink Knockout rose.

The original Knockout, introduced in 2000, was hailed as a “breakthrough shrub rose” by the All-American Rose Selections because of its exceptional disease resistance and hardiness. It was one of three roses to win the prestigious AARS award for outstanding garden performance in 2000. This year, the rose was given a Texas Superstar designation.

“Pink Knockout is what’s called a ‘sport’ of the original. It’s a mutation,” said Dr. Brent Pemberton, Texas Agricultural Experiment Station horticulturist, and head of the trials.

As in years past, the trials contain many other varieties of roses, both traditional and modern.

Set at the Texas A&M University System Agricultural Research and Extension Center at Overton, the event will feature professional horticulturists’ presentations and field tours of more than 400 bedding plants, disease-resistant roses and other perennial ornamentals, Pemberton said. Bedding plant varieties tested this year are too numerous to name, but include impatiens, petunias, begonias, portulaca, vinca, zinnias, geraniums, ageratum and other crops new to the trade such as Eragrostis and Iresine.

As in past trials, many vegetatively propagated crops (started from cuttings) such as callibrachoas, pentas, coleus, angelonia and verbena will be included. The highlights this year will be the many varieties of trailing petunias – both from seed and cuttings – and the New Guinea impatiens entries. Both these plants promise of being more heat tolerant than standard varieties, an important factor in East Texas, Pemberton said.

“Also, there are many exciting new colors in vinca, a crop that is a favorite for hot, sunny areas, and some new selections of torenia should be particularly nice this year,” Pemberton said.

Another group of plants featured will be those chosen for the North Texas Winner’s Circle award. This new designation highlights plants that have performed well at three north Texas locations – the Overton Center, the Texas A&M University System Agricultural Research and Extension Center at Dallas, and the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, Pemberton said.

Bedding plants are a significant part of the billion dollar ornamental industry spanning both rural and urban Texas. Most are produced in rural counties, but the majority of retail sales occurring in urban areas. Wholesale gate receipts totaled more than $250 million for the four East Texas counties of Cherokee, Van Zandt, Smith and Henderson alone. Statewide, the nursery industry accounts for nearly 9 percent of all agricultural production, with total wholesale receipts of $1.2 billion.

Though primarily designed for Master Gardeners, professional growers and landscapers, the field day is open to the public.

Registration will begin at 8:30 a.m. at the Overton Center’s North Farm where the actual research plots are located. At about 10:30 a.m., the tour will move to the Overton Center main complex. For the final tour stop, Pemberton has set up a demonstration of unusual perennials and disease resistant rose varieties in a garden setting near the greenhouses.

A barbecue lunch will be sponsored this year by Ball Seed Co., BWI Inc., Kinney Bonded Warehouse Inc, S& G Seed Co., and Sun Gro Horticulture.

The Overton center is located one mile from downtown Overton on Hwy. 3053.

Maps and more detailed driving instructions to the center can be found on the Internet at


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